In the world of live performance, encompassing concerts, live theatre, and festivals, Lighting Designers are in demand. Many dream of just walking in, getting a formal training, and get the job. How hard can switching a few keys and adjusting spotlights be? To be frank: very hard.
The real work in becoming a Lighting Designer is not just touching up a few knobs and screws, but the aesthetics of the scene and mood that controls the audience, not the show. And to get started, you have to volunteer. It may hurt to hear it, but working with theater productions are your best bet, and most of the time, the pay can only give you as much as gas money to and fro. Some people start in high school, where it’s safe and people will teach you the basics, others move on to their local small theaters, where the Production Manager or the Lighting Designer will throw you into the spot and get you working.
The goal here is to become the professional, and nourish your creativity with hands on projects. The more elaborate the work, the better of a reputation you’ll get. Keep traveling for your next job, and freelance yourself. Sometimes the pay is good, sometimes the pay is bad. You can be in LA one day, and New York the next. The project is what will matter in your resume, including:
- Title of Production
- Name of Theater/Location
- Name of Event
- Related Experience
- Other Experience
See a sample of what a Lighting Designer resume looks like at andrewwilder.com. Most Lighting Designers move on to live events and festivals, as they pay handsomely no matter where you go. There are only three things you really need to start making a living off of Lighting Design:
- Certification – to operate expensive and complex equipment, which increases your net worth. Live Production training is ideal.
- Basic equipment – you will have to start collecting your own cans and gels, to provide along with your services for certain productions. Much like a tool box, Lighting Designers know what they need after a few gigs – learn what colors compliment skin tone, undertones, etc. I recommend that you shop for the necessities: theatricalprojections.com
- Lots of experience – people want to know if you can handle the pressure of a production. Make sure you get at least two gigs a year. Some productions last one week, others last for three seasons. Just be ready to stay committed with Murphy’s Law looming about, because that’s what happens in any production! Start looking for gigs at backstagejobs.com.
If possible, try to get a mentor in the industry and get into more than just design. It’s good to be flexible in the industry, since companies are always looking for a specialist somewhere. This career can apply to the Movie and Television Industry, and much more. Just keep your eyes open, and keep up with the fast pace of entertainment.